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|November 15, 1999||
Labour unions support govt's WTO stance in run-up to Seattle
Central trade unions, representing over 40 per cent of the country's total workforce, have expressed unanimous support for the government's stand to oppose any linkage of labour standards with trade at the third ministerial conference of the World Trade Organisation scheduled to be held in Seattle, USA, later this month.
Murasoli Maran, Union minister for commerce and industry, initiated the process of consultations with political parties and other major interest groups in the run-up to the Seattle conference today.
In his interaction with the major trade unions, he was told by labour representatives that they were firmly committed to the observance of internationally-accepted core-labour standards. They told Maran that any linkage of labour standards with trade should be firmly opposed as it could be used as a protectionist device, and that non-trade issues should not be included in the agenda.
They also supported the government on the need to ensure proper implementation of the existing agreements, particularly in regard to the special provisions for developing countries stipulated in the various Uruguay round agreements.
Maran assured the trade unions that India would resolutely oppose linkage of trade with labour standards as well as non-trade issues and would emphasise the country's implementation concerns at Seattle. He also spoke of seeking issue-based support from like-minded countries so as to maximise India's gains from the multi-lateral trading system.
Muni Lall, minister of state for labour and employment, was present at the meeting. P P Prabhu, commerce secretary, and N N Khanna, special secretary, ministry of commerce, were also present.
Trade union representatives welcomed the initiative taken by the government to consult them in evolving an appropriate response to Seattle issues which were of vital concern to the nation.
Some representatives also urged the government to assess the country's post-Uruguay round experience and its likely impact with a view to safeguarding interests of the various stake-holders such as the industry and particularly agriculture in the context of food security, interests of the small farmers and rural employment.
In response to a suggestion, Maran agreed to include a trade union representative in the National Advisory Committee on International Trade.
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